State of the Union: Russia, Ukraine tensions, Brexit travels and yellow jackets

State of the Union: Russia, Ukraine tensions, Brexit travels and yellow jackets
By Stefan Grobe
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In this edition we take a look at the week in Europe as May takes her Brexit deal on the road in Britain, yellow jacket protests create headaches for Macron and Russia-Ukraine tensions present problems for the EU.

Theresa May on the road to Brexit


After clinching a withdrawal agreement with the EU at a high stakes summit in Brussels, the British Prime Minister has been scrambling to drum up domestic support all week.

Speaking to folks in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, she tried to sell to the public what may not be saleable to a majority in the House of Commons. So far, May's opponents have been more outspoken than her loyal supporters.

Two and a half years after the referendum, the Brexit endgame has begun.The British Parliament will vote on December 11th on what Theresa May has billed the only possible deal on the table.A majority seems to be elusive. And what will happen then is anybody's guess at this point.

There could be another deal, there could a second referendum or there could be a hard Brexit plunging the country into chaos. 

Yellow Vests

When it comes to chaos, the French have a lot to say.

For two weeks now, the country is shaken up by people wearing motorists' yellow vests, as they started their movement protesting against a higher fuel tax introduced by the government.

Over time, the anger over higher gasoline prices has morphed into a general discontent over waning spending power and growing income inequality.

As you can see here, when French protesters hit the barricades, they mean business.

The violence turned some fancy Parisian boulevards into battlefields, shocking tourists and Christmas shoppers.

At least the clean-up proceeded in an orderly fashion. 

In the meantime, President Emmanuel Macron said he understood the anger felt by legitimate protesters, but insisted he would not be bounced into changing policy by thugs.

Some observers have raised the question whether the 40-year-old former investment banker has misjudged his ability to overhaul France and its economy.

Well, street protests are as old as the fifth Republic, even older, and we are quite familiar with them.

Russia-Ukraine tensions

Another thing we are familiar with are tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

This week, the crisis over a murky naval incident in the Black Sea escalated into a serious war of words.

Ukraine accused Russia of wanting to annex his entire country and called for NATO to deploy warships.

Moscow denied that it was restricting shipping and accused Kiev of orchestrating the incident to distract from domestic problems.

So far the West took a rather cautious approach, urging both sides to exercise restraint.


Climate Change

On another topic in a totally different context, restraint is the exact opposite of what needs to be done.

I'm talking about the fight against climate change that made big headlines this week, when several high-profile reports were published.

Global temperatures are now on course for a 3 to 5 degrees Celcius rise this century, far overshooting a global target of limiting the increase to two degrees. If the current trend continues, that is.

But even if all countries were able to meet their climate pledges, we would still reach a 3 degrees rise – which would mean a growing amount of disasters and difficulties with agriculture.

The EU Commission presented a bold plan that kind of wants to make up for inaction in the past and that even gets the praise from environmentalists.


And here's a look at what's ahead:

On Monday, talks are supposed to start between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels in Stockholm.

The international community is pushing for an end to nearly four years of civil war that has killed thousands of civilians.

Also on Monday, finance ministers of the euro zone meet in Brussels.

They likely decide to postpone most reforms for the single currency bloc because of the budget stand-off with Italy.

And on Thursday, the foreign ministers of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe come together for their annual Council meeting in Milan.


Among other things they want to strengthen the dialogue on security issues.

By the way, OSCE area encompasses Russia and Ukraine.

Hungarian Streetfighter

Friendship in politics is usually all about give-and-take.

When movie stars are involved, it's all about showing off. With that being said, here is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban hosting ageing Hollywood tough guy Chuck Norris.

In case you were wondering, Norris is 78, like Orban's father. In the video Orban is driving Norris around and is promoting a Hungarian counter-terrorism unit.


“I'm a street fighter basically, I'm not coming from the elite”, Orban says in the video at some point.

Who cares that Orban went to Oxford University on a Soros-funded scholarschip.

In politics as in showbusiness it's all about appearance.

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